1/3 of what we eat is made possible by bees

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doug88888/ Some rights reserved.

Photo: Doug Wheller, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

That headline's a little factoid I culled from the trailer for new a documentary about bees and the mystery of colony collapse. It's called More Than Honey, and it's playing tonight at Potsdam's Roxy Theater at 7:15pm. If the trailer (at the bottom of the post) is any indication, the cinematography is pretty incredible.

Bees have been in the news for several years now, and we've covered the issues here at The Dirt often. The latest comes from Senator Chuck Schumer's office, which is calling for the USDA to be ready with disaster assistance if honey and fruit growers suffer due to the frigid temperatures this winter:

The Polar Vortex brought record-low temperatures to many areas of Upstate New York, and subsequent warm spells led to drastic variations in temperature.  The cold snap and the rapid temperature variations could result in major damage to crops in Madison County and throughout New York.  In addition to cold damage, some crop diseases are expected to thrive in the colder temperatures, like crown gall.  At Honey Hill Orchard, there is concern about their apple trees and apples, as well as the bees they keep to produce honey.  Honey bees are particularly capable of surviving cold temperatures, so long as they have an adequate food supply to generate the energy to move around to keep warm.  But in prolonged cold spells of extremely low temperatures, the bees may be unable to move within the hive. If they run out of honey within the cluster, the bees can starve to death just inches from additional honey reserves.

Here's our coverage via public radio's New York State collaboration.

And here's the "More Than Honey" trailer…


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  1. as was noted, bees can tolerate very cold weather provided they get a slight break in very cold weather to move to fresh stores of honey, but they do need a day above 40 degrees every so often to get out and relieve themselves. Usually we get a January thaw at about the right time and then they are good until spring.

    The state funds a bee inspector on again off again and it is a very small amount of money for an important function. Even better would be a few paid professional bee keepers that would make regular rounds and at important calendar dates to insure hobbyists and part-time bee keepers were staying on top of disease and pest management. That might help newbees to bee more successful and it would help keep tabs on the health of the whole population.

    • Yeah, maybe we could get funds from the casinos to cover that….

      • My thought would be for beekeeper groups to self-fund that sort of service through dues and maybe some grant money from private interest groups.

        But the benefit would go to everyone and the cost might be a half million dollars or less.

        • It's a good idea, and similar self-funded systems prove that it can work….until the State decides it's short on money, lays off the inspectors, and "borrows" the funds.

  2. The film was amazing, full of subtle, self-incriminating statements right out of the mouths of the bee-keepers and farmers. The film-maker did a good job of allowing the players to tell it in their own words without editorial comment, and the conclusions are left to the viewer.
    For me, the farther I can distance myself from industrial agriculture, and the foods that are produced in that way the better. One friend remarked on the way out of the theatre, "makes the price on the organic almonds look a lot more reasonable, eh?"

  3. Story about a new program to pay farmers to plant cover crops to help bees:

    It is great to help the bees, and all, but the program is paying the same "farmers" who created many of the problems to help fix the problem. Many of these farms removed hedgerows that taxpayers paid to have planted after the Dust Bowl so thye could plant more acreage of corn or soybean and get more govt subsidies.